Are you Creating Digital Disciples?

Posted at May 31, 2011

Businesses live and die by their two most critical metrics: profits and customer satisfaction. The latter will drive the former, so it’s arguable that focusing on customers will make everything else fall into place. This can mean different things to different organizations; after all, focusing on customers might start by simply focusing on your staff.

What about in the church? Since we aren’t worried about profits, do we have a correlary to customer satisfaction?


If we’re serious about fulfilling the Great Commission, and building churches that truly make disciples, then we must measure our performance. This isn’t about taking credit for success, nor is it about declaring defeat if the Holy Spirit isn’t working in the ways we might expect. It’s about ensuring that our activity is always aligned with our mission, and then looking for the fruits of this activity.

How to Know if Your Online Ministry is Truly Making Disciples

They come.  Are people visiting your online ministry outposts with regularity? This is a sign that they feel connected and (maybe) invested in what you are doing.  Ways to measure this include:

  • Repeat visitors stats (available through Google Analytics, or possibly through your CMS system)
  • Surveys. Take a periodic survey of your visitors, and ask a simple question such as, “How often do you visit us online?” Ask this same question routinely, over time, and you’ll get a picture of how your traffic might be fluctuating as a result of your initiatives and programs.

They give. When people believe in the vision and direction of your ministry, they will want to get behind it.  How to measure the giving rate within your online community:

  • Facebook “likes”. The online equivalent of a “thumbs up”, this gesture basically drives traffic to your ministry.
  • Online giving revenue. Probably the most obvious, and the one that churches typically measure too much. It’s easy to throw down the credit card and give some money to a cause, but nevertheless it does indicate some level of ownership on the part of the donor.
  • Comments on your blog. Those kind folks who take the time to post a comment are not just responding to your blog, they are participating and giving you “free” content. They are also giving you, in a sense, credibility by virtue of their participation. This includes constructive comments as well as positive ones.

They serve. Much higher on the engagement and discipleship scale than giving, serving begins to show the true devotion of a follower. At least it does in our fast-paced, I’m-too-busy American culture. What are ways that a person might show his or her inclination to serve, in the online context?

  • Help with content moderation. For example many churches use volunteers to help moderate forums, blog comments, or live chats during the video streaming of services.
  • Managing your social network channels. For many churches, you just simply don’t have the staff bandwidth to take on all of the social networking opportunities out there. Enlisting a volunteer can be smart, and that person’s service will also develop a deeper passion and ownership in him or her.
  • Encouage people to come out from behind the computer. Ultimately, all of your online outreach efforts should be leading to an in-person encounter. This could be a visit to your church, a new small group member, a participant on a short-term missions trip, or even just a coffee get-together. The point is, you can’t sustain a deep relationship nor a growing discipleship forever without meeting in person. If in-person meetings aren’t practical for health or geographic reasons, then at least look into using Skype to connect face-to-face.

They tell others. About your church. About your program. About a sermon they saw on your site. About Jesus. Ultimately a disciple of any flavor (online or offline) needs to have a core philosophy for sharing and evangelizing. It can be tough to measure this ultimate outpouring of your online ministry efforts, but here are a few ideas on how to do it:

  • Anectdotal feedback. Ask your online community to share success stories with you.  You’re listening for stories about how they told a friend to check out your Website for the first time. Or how someone saw your church on their Facebook page, decided to check it out, and is now asking follow-up questions about the Gospel. Cool stuff like that. Isn’t it amazing how much greater a reach you have online, thanks to the platforms we have today?
  • Surveys.  As you talk to folks online, at your events, at your Christianity 101 classes, etc., be sure to ask them how they found out. Track this over time to gauge how many of your followers are actively sharing their faith and their church with others.
  • Encourage your followers to post a badge/logo on their own personal blogs. This might be your church logo, or maybe some slightly more provocative question. Be sure that they link the badge/logo back to a specific landing page on your site, so that you can track inbound traffic.
  • Twitter monitoring. Every church should actively be watching the tubes for mentions of your church, pastor, ministries, etc. Try Tweetdeck or Raven Tools for this.

 Do you have any cool stories to share about creating digital disciples?

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